Abortion in Belgium

Abortion in Belgium was fully legalized on April 4, 1990.[1] Abortion is legal until 12 weeks after conception (14 weeks after the last menstrual period)[2][3] and it is required for women to have six days of counseling prior to the abortion and to check in with her doctor to monitor her health in the weeks after the procedure.[3] Later abortions are permitted if there is a risk to the woman's life or the fetus shows risk of births defects.[3] As of 2009, the abortion rate was 9.2 abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 years.[4]

1990 liberalization of abortion laws

Prior to 1990, Belgium remained one of the few European countries where abortion was illegal. However, abortions were unofficially permitted (and even reimbursed out of 'sickness funds') as long as they were registered as "curettage". It was estimated that 20,000 abortions were performed each year (in comparison to 100,000 births).[5]

When the law liberalizing abortion was enacted, it was controversial to many Belgians.[6] In early 1990, despite the opposition of the Christian parties, a coalition of the Socialist and Liberal parties passed a law to partially liberalize abortion law in Belgium. The Belgian bishops appealed to the population at large with a public statement that expounded their doctrinal and pastoral opposition to the law. They warned Belgian Catholics that anyone who co-operated "effectively and directly" in the procurement of abortions was "excluding themselves from the ecclesiastical community." Motivated by the strong stance of the Belgian bishops, King Baudouin notified the Prime Minister on March 30 that he could not sign the law without violating his conscience as a Catholic.[7] Since the legislation would not have the force of law without the king's signature, his refusal to sign threatened to precipitate a constitutional crisis.[8] However, the problem was resolved by an agreement between the king and Prime Minister Martens by which the Belgian government declared the king unable to govern, assumed his authority and enacted the law, after which Parliament then voted to reinstate the king on the next day.[5][9][10][11][12][13] The Vatican described the king's action as a "noble and courageous choice" dictated by a "very strong moral conscience."[14] Others have suggested that Baudouin's action was "little more than a gesture", since he was reinstated as king just 44 hours after he was removed from power.[7]


  1. Belgian King, Unable to Sign Abortion Law, Takes Day Off
  2. http://www.loveattitude.be/L-interruption-volontaire-de,307
  3. 1 2 3 "Termination of Pregnancy/Abortion in Belgium". Angloinfo Brussels. Angloinfo. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  4. "World Abortion Policies 2013". United Nations. 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  5. 1 2 Belien, Paul (2005). A Throne in Brussels: Britain, the Saxe-Coburgs and the Belgianisation of Europe. Devon: Imprint Academic. pp. 292–293. ISBN 1-84540-033-X.
  6. Belgium Eases Its Abortion Law
  7. 1 2 Hubert, Vivian; Green, Howard (1 March 2000). New History of Christianity. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 389. ISBN 978-0-8264-1227-0. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  8. Barker, Eileen (15 April 2010). The Centrality of Religion in Social Life. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-4094-0343-2. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  9. Wilsford, Political Leaders of Contemporary Western Europe (Greenwood Press 1995 ISBN 978-0-313-28623-0), p. 30
  10. Geoffrey K. Roberts, Patricia Hogwood,West European Politics (Manchester University Press 2003 ISBN 978-0-7190-5421-1), p. 84
  11. Els Witte, Jan Craeybeckx, Alain Meynen,Political History of Belgium (VUB University Press 2010 ISBN 978-90-5487-517-8), p. 266
  12. Encyclopedia of World Constitutions(Facts on File 2006 ISBN 978-0-8160-6078-8), p. 92
  13. Sandro Magister, "Obama's Pick for Vice President Is Catholic. But the Bishops Deny Him Communion"
  14. "Pope Prays at Tomb of Abortion Foe". Associated Press. 4 June 1995.
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